“Tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love – the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence because every match is a life in miniature.” ―Andre Agassi
Nadal has done it, again. With his 19th Grand Slam Title, he also extends the Big 3’s winning streak to 12. Altogether, the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic trio has won a combined 55 Grand Slams.
Who is going to unseat them? Back in 2002, when Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam, it was an unbeatable world record. 17 years later, he has been bested by three GOATs.
Therefore, records can break. The bar, however, is much higher this time around. Hence the conundrum – is there enough promise in the future to trump these 3 legends?
The triopoly has given tennis more than just records though. As a tennis fan from the Sampras-Agassi era, I was stoked after the subsequent arrival of the Big 3. Not only myself, but the ongoing thrill is undoubtedly drawing more people to the game.
For example, from personal experience; my friends who had never watched a tennis match before, are religiously following the sport. Some of them have even picked it up as a leisure activity.
My point is that rivalries lift sports. They bring in viewers, sponsors and media attention, of course, they are media-friendly because there is always – content.
The next generation of tennis needs to deliver that package, so tennis can continue its upward trajectory.
Although the big 3 does not seem to be slowing down, it is the right time to look into the future and determine who the new tennis stars are.
At times, I shudder at the thought of the Big 3’s retirement. There will be tears. Unlucky for us, we will have to mourn thrice unless the legends hang their racquets together to make an impromptu joint trip to Malibu – not happening!
Anyway, before I lose my train of thought – there are a couple of promising talents touted to lead tennis into the future.
Dominic Thiem is the first name that comes to mind when you think of potential new tennis stars. A gifted clay court natural who is set to dominate Roland Garros with back to back French Open finals on his resume. The only one stopping him so far – Nadal.
Thiem, however, is yet to show promise on other courts. His best showing outside the Roland Garros came at the US Open last year when he reached the quarterfinals.
He may not yet be ready to make the big leap. Also, at 26 years of age, the odds are not in his favour, especially if his clay-court rival, Nadal, enjoys a prolonged career like Federer. To honest, Nadal is probably not leaving the courts soon.
Next up is a surprise entry – Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian only came to the public’s notice this year. He made an instant impact going from being seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam in Australia, to defeating Djokovic twice in the same year. That smells special.
Based on his form, he was also considered the favourite after Nadal to win the US Open, and boy he did not disappoint. A brilliant performance, so much so that it was recognised by Nadal, his opponent.
Medvedev’s flashy display also earned him Toni Nadal’s Rafa’s uncle and former coach, respect, who believes Medvedev has all the qualities to defeat anybody.
According to him, Medvedev is currently better than anyone from the Nextgen players. That is a huge statement since Toni is known for being extremely critical of upcoming talent. Unlike Thiem, age does not seem to be a huge worry for Medvedev.
If he continues to develop and maintain his fitness, he is the best candidate to unseat the Big 3 and he is only 23!
Maybe Nadal would concur with his uncle’s opinion post-Medvedev’s cameo, but a different player caught Nadal’s eye just a week before the final.
His name is Alexander Zverev, who Nadal believes is the closest to winning a Grand Slam outside the Big 3.
There is value in his opinion, Zverev has always given him a tough time on the court. In his career, Zverev has overcome Federer thrice and Djokovic twice. At 22 years old, Zverev is another young lad oozing with talent.
The other ones hungry for glory are Borna Coric and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The future does seem bright, but the present is far from over. And honestly, we don’t want it to be!
The Big 3 have given us a real glimpse of passion. A lesson of sheer will and continuous improvement, that does not fade with time.
Will history repeat itself? Or will the new generation of tennis stars write their own histories? Who will become the new tennis stars? What do you think?